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Updated: 11 hours 16 min ago

‘There is no honesty of purpose in anti-corruption fight ’

Tue, 04/24/2018 - 07:30

Most times, the public wants to see maximum punishment handed out to those convicted of serious financial crimes, without taking note of what the law prohibiting such offences provide. As a result, they criticize the judiciary and accused it of abetting corruption by giving light punishments to high profile offenders. But in this interview with GODWIN DUNIA, a senior advocate of Nigeria, Chief Ifedayo Adedipe, believes that the public needs to know that the duty of a judge is to interpret the provisions of the law and not to make laws. He also spoke on other national issues.

Responding to such criticisms, he said the judiciary has been a subject of regular criticism because the critics do not appreciate the fact that judges do not make laws, but only interpret them.

He said: “In a recent interactive programme or so, people were condemning the judiciary for awarding six months imprisonment for a particular offence. I think we should endeavour to look at the law under which an individual is charged. A judge cannot because of public perception create new laws. If the law prescribed three years punishment for a particular offence, that is all, the judge cannot do otherwise. If an individual steals a goat and got life jail, it is for the judge to implement what the law has prescribed and not public perception.

“It has become so worrisome that the judiciary has been unfairly singled out for criticism, but the sector is the only arm of government that has disciplinary mechanism. People often write petitions based on rumours, the NJC sets up committee to look at such petitions and when the matter comes up and you request for facts, there would be none to buttress the claims. And when the case is dismissed they claim the judge had been bribed, that they are corrupt.

“Again, most supposedly literate individuals often say some senior advocates aid corruption. If you know a corrupt SAN, while don’t you single him out with facts or evidences so that such SAN could be sanctioned? I think we must discourage this, otherwise we will destroy this most viable institution in Nigeria.”

Commenting on the competence of prosecuting agencies in investigating crimes, he said: “Else where, before a police will arrest an individual or suspect, they must have got necessary facts. But here, you will be arrested before they start looking for evidences to prosecute you. And in most cases, the relation or accomplice of the suspect would have obliterated the evidences that might be available. Then when they get to the court, you will see they are ill prepared and it is not the duty of the judge to now provide the missing links.

“There is also the question of how well trained are the prosecuting agencies? It is inconceivable that you sent a lawyer of ten years experience against a seasoned litigator of over three decades. There is no way you can beat experience so easily. And the judge are been overworked under very uncomfortable condition and for this reason, there is an urgent need to modernize the system.”

On crowded court dockets, which could be as a result of some lawyers filing indefensible suits/cases, he said it is an area that needs improvement, may be by way of legislation.

His words: “A lawyer will know that he will not win a particular case, but he will still go to the court to buy time and three to four years, the matter will still be in court. Therefore, if there will be reform in the judiciary, such lawyer and client must be made to pay for abuse of judicial processes.”

Speaking on the recent killings by herdsmen in some part of the country, Adedipe said he expected the president as the leader of the country to address the nation.

“Usually in a situation like this, where we have killings in Benue, Taraba, Kaduna and others, we expected the President to address the nation and spelt out steps that have been taken to curtail such events and how they would bring culprits of the heinous crime to justice. But rather, what we hear are worrisome and condescending commentaries. For instance, the one allegedly credited to the Minister of Defence, saying, anti-grazing laws caused the crisis. What then are the functions of government? Is it not to make laws? So, the failure of the president to call him to order makes one wonder if Buhari understands the depth of revulsion in the land,” he declared.

Adedipe believes there is a powerful interest behind all those attacks and killings. “You don’t get an AK47 gun off the shelves and again, who trained these individuals in the use of these arms and how come they go to villages, communities and set them on fire and forcefully evict them? I think there is a touch of ethnic cleansing in the whole scenario; an attempt to take peoples’ land on the pretext of grazing cattles. And if they invade farmlands and the farmers see them with guns, are you saying they should fold hands or clap for them? Naturally, they will want to defend themselves by fighting back.

“We have also heard irresponsible, provocative and treacherous statements from the Miyetti Allah group threatening fire and brimstone and they got away with it. It is the inability of the state to protect the nation that has led to all these. I have also heard the Minister of Agriculture talking about cow colony. It is not the duty of the state to provide land for business. It is up to the federal government to know what to do about this. The conduct of the President in the face of this ugly development is that of a king and we did not elect him as a king, but a president. You ask, when last did he spoke with Nigerians? Look at American President, he is always talking either in conference, interview or press conference,” he pointed out.

On the economy, Adedipe said: “We have heard figures reeled out daily but we have not seen any impart or improvement in terms of the effect of these figures on the populace. The value of the naira is still on downward trend and there is no money in circulation. People are complaining, people are lamenting and groaning, so of what importance is the professed growth in our economy?

“Although, in the area of infrastructure, there are one or two things the government is doing that are commendable, like rehabilitation of roads, there is a marginal improvement in electricity supply and the building on the railway project which was actually started by Obasanjo administration”.

The SAN regretted that as the preparation for 2019 elections are underway, the political temperament of some governors is becoming worrisome. He cited as example the conduct of the governor of Kaduna State in demolishing in a rather cruel manner the house of a Senator of same APC party. According to him, that is a peep into what would be obtained in that state.

His words: “Also, in Kogi State, the juvenile governor there is always talking before thinking. Imagine him insulting the Catholic priests just because they visited the President. This was the man who never won an election, but made governor through the ruling APC politics. He runs from one place to another just to identify with Buhari and kiddnappers, arm robbers seems to have taken over the state. Whether he likes it or not, the president will be adjudged based on the merits and demerits of how far he has actualised his political promises and how far he has delivered to the people. Same thing will apply to him in Kogi.

“Look at Kano State, where teenagers are voting and the governor is threatening to deliver five million votes. Is he telling us other political parties will not have any votes? The governor of Imo State has also decreed that his son in-law will be the next governor. These are the greatest challenge to the survival of our democracy.”

Asked if the fight against corruption is still on, Adedipe said: “What has the government done about Babachair Lawal? What has they done with Maina, NIA corrupt cases and other major cases directly indicting those in the government? Until the government take steps against these officials, then we can say they are fighting corruption. The government has been talking about how PDP funded 2015 election, have they talked about how APC funded the same election? Or I am to believe APC only raised money through voluntary donations and they elected Buhari? So far, there is no honesty of purpose in the fight against corruption.

“It was the (PDP) Obasanjo administration that created EFCC, ICPC and we know how he used these agencies to fight corruption against his own officials. He made it national issue, encompassing every Nigerians. It is not the way it is been done now that a Secretary to the government was caught hand deep in corruption and up till now, nothing has been done. Recall that Obasanjo handcuffed the IG of police during is tenure as president over cases of corrupt practices. The same Obasanjo refused to brook a former Senate President and even dismissed a Minister right on national TV over issues of corruption. I am not saying Buhari should act in similar manner, but his indifferent attitude while all these happen under his roof is worrisome for a president who claims to be fighting corruption”.

On the disclosure of salaries of senators by Senator Shehu Sani, Adedipe said he should be commended for the courageous disclosure and conviction to bring to the public domain what our Senators earn after several years of debate and controversies.

“The amount is quite huge. We are talking of over N14million per month, if we should go by Sani’s disclosure in a country where workers hardly get N18, 000 as minimum wage per month, I don’t think this is justifiable for any reasons. Even the USA, the system is not like this. I know of a QC who is a senator and he only collects sitting allowances. That means, if he did not sit, there will be no allowance. Meanwhile, USA almost has 50 percent of the world wealth and they are highly productive, yet they don’t earn half of what our senators earns,” he stressed.

NBA engages Lagos government on taxation, land use charge

Tue, 04/24/2018 - 07:25

The chairman of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) Lagos branch law week planning committee, Mr. Tola Oshobi (SAN) (left); chairman of the branch, Mr. Chukwuka Ikwuazom and the alternate chairman, Kennedy Ahia during the press conference in Lagos last Thursday.

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Lagos branch has said it would engage Lagos state government on the controversial land use charge, taxation, land documentations and other topical issues in its law week programme scheduled to commence May 5, 2018.

In a pre-event briefing by the conference planning committee presided over by the chairman of the branch, Chukwuka Ikwuazom, alternate chairman, Kennedy Ahia and chairman of the law week planning committee, Mr. Tola Oshobi (SAN), the premier branch said the weeklong event would be very exciting, educative and entertaining as a result of the rich programmes and faculties that would share ideas with members.

According to Oshobi, the law week, with the theme: “Human Capital and the Legal Services in the 21st Century”, commences on May 5, with a health walk that would start from 6 am at the Lagos high court and terminate at the Falomo roundabout. “It is not arguable that a healthy man inhabits a healthy body. Our lawyers need to be as healthy to be able to do their work,” he said.

His words: “The event would also feature a prison visit to Ikoyi and Kirikiri. During this visit, we will take all kinds of gifts to the inmates. We need to see what is going on and what issues some of them may have and if they need any representations, we will do so. We will also have a health check at the foyer of the Lagos high court for our members.

“In addition, we are making arrangement with the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to have ongoing national identity card registration at the foyer of the Lagos high court in order to make it easy for our members to register and have their identity cards.

“We will also have a welcome cocktail on May 9th to kick-start the technical session, which will continue to May 10th. Prof. Konyinsola Ajayi (SAN) would deliver the keynote address.”

The first session on May 10th, he said would border on clients’ expectation in 21st century, adding that the second session would be on technology and innovations.

He said the panelists are highly experienced and rich in knowledge. The issues would also accommodate young lawyers and their choices of specialization.

Dialogue with judges on labour issues, in addition to the business of law would also be discussed, Oshobi hinted.

“We will also have our elders’ night because we don’t want to forget them. On Friday, after the technical sessions are over, we will have the closing party. Traditionally we have a law dinner, but we will have a closing party, because dinners are usually held in formal environment.

“But the party would give our members the opportunity to lay down their guards and unwind. It is an innovation and a very welcomed development,” he declared, adding that participants would have additional benefit of gaining continuous legal education points from the national body of the NBA.

SAN harps on quality of legal works

Tue, 04/24/2018 - 07:22

Paul Usoro (SAN) . PHOTO Lawyard

A senior advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN) has said that good quality delivery of legal services and effective planning would earn lawyers more fees.

He made the assertion at the 2018 conference of the Section on Legal Practice of the Nigeria Bar Association (SLP NBA) held in Port Harcourt, Rivers state capital.

The theme of the conference, “Re-thinking and Re-tooling legal practice for the challenges of our time” opened discussions to a range of topics covering disciplinary issues, problems impeding lawyers’ fee earning capabilities, among others.

Speaking on the topic, “Problems Impeding our Fee Earning Capabilities as Legal Practitioners” Usoro said: “The issue is essential because it is from the fees we are able to take care of our juniors and other overheads. It cannot be ignored or taken lightly”.

He said factors that affect earning fees to include quality of work, poor planning, record keeping, time of completion of work, charging of hourly fees, work environment and client relationship.

“The quality of your work determines what you earn and it will help to put you at the top level of your earnings. You need to aim to be at the top level of your practice and that will determine the fees you command. As lawyers, we are not very good at planning, we try to go into everything and that makes one Jack of all trades, the master of none”, he said. 

The Learned Silk went ahead to share his personal experience when the GSM auction was to take place. “Argument was canvassed that no Nigerian Lawyer has ever done it before which is true. We did it and it was internationally rated as the best. The same argument was also canvassed when we were drafting the Communication Act. Since 2003 that the Law was passed, there has not been a single amendment to it because the law is adjudged to be the best,” he enthused.

Usoro emphasised that lawyers must have a safety valve when dealing with clients and companies in particular. “If you do not keep records, it will be very difficult to put a cost to your work. One of the challenges in litigation is the timing it takes to complete it. When negotiating, it is good to have a safety valve that will enable your ability to renegotiate if the time exceeds what you had expected.

He encouraged lawyers to have a befitting environment for their offices, which plays a big role in determining the type of fees they charge. “If your office appears tattered, the client is likely to price you the way you appear. 

‘ACJA conference is aimed to review Act’  

Tue, 04/24/2018 - 07:21

Chief Arthur Obi-Okafor (SAN)

The Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Administration of Criminal Justice Reform Committee, Chief Arthur Obi-Okafor (SAN), has said that the fifth edition of NBA Criminal Justice conference will undertake a painstaking and holistic review of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA).

He said this would be with a view to tackling the challenges and plugging all loopholes relating to its smooth implementation.

Obi-Okafor also said the conference billed to hold from 24 to 27 of April will consider how far the ACJA has gone and unlocking the innovations of criminal justice legislation among others.

The theme of the conference is ‘Criminal justice administration in Nigeria: The journey so far.

“Other thematic areas to be discussed at the conference include unlocking the innovations of criminal justice legislation; Corruption, economic and financial crimes: special courts to the rescue? Human trafficking and transnational crimes: institutional and legal remedies, and prosecution and punishment of electoral offenders in Nigeria”.

Adegboruwa, 64 others shortlisted for SAN rank

Tue, 04/24/2018 - 07:20

Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa

Lagos lawyer and rights activist, Ebun Olu- Adegboruwa has been shortlisted for the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) by the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committees (LPPC) alongside 64 other candidates.

This is contained in the statement signed by Hadizatu Mustapha, the Chief Registrar of Supreme Court/ Secretary, LPPC last weekend.

Also in the list are Olabode Olanipekun, Edmund Obiagwu, Olalekan Ojo, Adeniji Kazeem, Kenneth Ahia, Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun amongst others.

The statement urged the general public to comment on the integrity and reputation of any of the candidates, adding that any complaint(s) presented to the LPPC should be accompanied with a verifying affidavit deposed to before a Court of Record in Nigeria.

“Ten copies of such comments or complaints must be submitted at the Office of the Secretary, LPPC at the Supreme Court of Nigeria Complex, Abuja not later than 4.00pm on Monday 14th May, 2018,” the statement reads in part.

‘Account for monies realized from sale of my properties’

Tue, 04/24/2018 - 07:17

Embattled businessman, Chief Emmanuel Nwude, has called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to give account of the monies realized from the sale of his Abuja property known as Russel Centre.

Speaking through his counsel, Mr. Ilechukwu Emmanuel during a press conference in Lagos, he said every story told by the EFCC regarding Nwude’s fraudulent escapades were false.

According to him, the truth of the matter is that, there was a scam somewhere affecting a Brazilian bank and its shareholders, which involved a Nigerian lawyer and himself.

“In the cause of it, a Nigeria lawyer was involved and judgment was entered in a British high court and Nwude was a party in the suit,” he explained.

He said Nwude was exonerated in that matter but when the parties returned to Nigeria, the Nigerian lawyer asked Nwude to “settle” him.

“Chief Nwude refused since the matter has been decided by British high court, but the lawyer decided to find a way by reaching out to EFCC when it was established.

“His mission was that this man is a party to a suit in British high court, judgment was entered but he was freed and he made $37m, so he wanted EFCC to collect the money for him.

“They framed him up on the allegation that they defrauded a Brazilian bank that led to the collapse of the bank,” he stated, adding that he was convicted on account of the frame up.

He stressed that Nwude was convicted by Lagos high court, although he appealed against the decision, his properties were forfeited, sold by lawyers and EFCC officials and the proceeds shared among themselves rather than going to the federation account as stipulated by the EFCC act.

According to him, the properties worth N200billion. He said the properties in London worth 50million pounds while the ones in America worth US$145million.

According to him, EFCC has abused the powers they have and they use it to perpetuate fraud on the federal government and the citizenry.

When contacted, EFCC spokesman, Mr. Wilson Wujaren promised to respond to the allegations and requested for email address, which was promptly delivered to him, but he never did two weeks after.

Committee marks World Intellectual Property Day

Tue, 04/24/2018 - 07:11

Afam Nwokedi

The Nigerian Bar Association, Section on Business Law, Intellectual Property (IP) Committee will on Thursday April 26th, 2018 join the rest of the world to mark this year’s World Intellectual Property Day with a seminar themed, ‘Securing the Nigeria’s future through innovation and creativity.’

The event, which will take place in Kaduna, is expected to look into Nigeria’s future and how it can be secured through innovation and creativity.

Speaking about the 2018 event, the Chairman of the Section, Afam Nwokedi said: “This year’s event will give value to those that have dedicated their innovative skills to promoting the Nigerian economy and as well as provide an opportunity for creatives to showcase the bountiful, innovative and creative abilities that abound in our country.”

IP practitioners celebrate World Intellectual Property Day annually on April 26th to highlight the role of intellectual property rights (patents, trademarks, industrial designs, copyright) in encouraging innovation and creativity around the world.

This year’s World Intellectual Property Day campaign celebrates the brilliance, ingenuity, curiosity and courage of the women who are driving change in our world and shaping our common future.

The NBA Section on Business Law, Stillwaters Law Firm, GRF Dalley & Partners, Advocaat Law Practice, PZ Cussons Nigeria and a host of others, support the SBL IP seminar.

After this event, the NBA-SBL will move to Zaria to inaugurate ‘SBL CLUB’ at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria. This is the second in a series of Business Law Clubs being set up in faculties of Law around the country. The first was inaugurated on March 8th 2018 at Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, with others to follow soon.

Court restrains Lagos, Ogun, security agencies from obstructing lottery operations

Tue, 04/17/2018 - 07:12

High Court


A Federal High Court, Lagos has restrained Lagos and Ogun state governments from disrupting the business of lottery companies for allegedly operating without the states’ licences.

Justice Mohammed Idris held that it would be illegal to shut down lottery businesses on the basis that they have not obtained additional licenses having been earlier licenced by the Federal Government.

He restrained the Inspector General of Police, commissioners of Police in Lagos and Ogun, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Department of State Services (DSS) from arresting lottery operators or sealing up their offices on that basis.

The plaintiffs, Western Lotto Nigeria Ltd and Wesco Pools & Lottery Ltd, had prayed the court to determine whether in view of subsisting and binding judgments of the Federal High Court, the defendants can close down their businesses for not obtaining licenses from the states despite having been granted nationwide permits/licences by the National Lottery Regulatory Commission.

The respondents are the Lagos and Ogun states Attorneys-General, the Lagos State Lottery Board, the Ogun State Internal Revenue Service, the IGP, commissioners of Police in Lagos and Ogun, the EFCC and the DSS.

In his judgment, Justice Idris dismissed the defendants’ objections and granted the two prayers in the plaintiffs’ originating summons.He made a declaration that the defendants or any combination of them may not take any steps whatsoever whether by closure, arrests, detentions, sealing off, or howsoever designed, to disrupt, close down or otherwise impede the lottery business of the plaintiffs.

The judge held that having been granted national permits, the defendants cannot close down such businesses for reason that the plaintiffs have not obtained additional license to operate their lottery business.

Justice Idris granted an order restraining the defendants or their agents from disrupting the plaintiffs’ business in any manner having been given national licenses pursuant to the National Lottery Act of 2005.e plaintiffs, in a supporting affidavit, said a tussle over supremacy between the states and the NLRC was resolved by two earlier judgments of the Federal High Court in Abuja.Justice Idris held that the two judgments were still subsisting.

‘Call for self-defence is a veiled reference to breach of social contract between government and the people’

Tue, 04/17/2018 - 06:50

Prof. Epiphany Azinge


The recent outburst by retired general, Theophilus Danjuma, accusing the military of colluding with killer bandits, raised huge dust. Not just that he made the damning allegation, he called on Nigerians to defend themselves or get killed one after another. In this interview with JOSEPH ONYEKWERE, the immediate past director-general of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS), Professor Epiphany Azinge (SAN), says the call for self-defence is a veiled reference to the breach of the social contract between government and the people. He also expressed views about other legal matters.

Self-defence is a constitutionally recognised right. What do you make of the call for self-defence by Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd)?
Our criminal jurisprudence recognises right of self-defence. Even at that, it is not a right that is invoked arbitrarily. Firstly, it is fundamental to determine whether the right of self-defence can be applied collectively in a corporate manner or what is only invoked by an individual in a personal manner. What I am alluding to is, can a mob invoke collectively self-defence for an action? General Danjuma’s postulation undoubtedly was made in good faith. Given his track record and accomplishments; it cannot be denied that his pronouncement was motivated by highest patriotic ideals. But the general statement must not be seen from most simplistic perspective because it does convey more message than the eye can see. General Danjuma’s statement is an indirect indictment on the government of the day and its perceived inability to protect lives and property of its citizenry. Also it is a veiled reference to a breach of the social contract between government and the people of Nigeria.

The people of Nigeria in whom dwell sovereignty have ceded powers to the government by virtue of social contract as encapsulated in the constitution. The powers exercisable by the military and the police constitutionally and statutorily to protect life and property are products of surrender of right of defence by the people to law enforcement agencies. Thus, to invite the people to assume such power is an indication that the agencies have failed and social contract vitiated. I am not unmindful of the quality of people in government and their capacity to read in between the lines to appreciate the wake-up call from General Danjuma. For me, the general sounded an alarm bell that must be heeded more by government than by individuals. My fear is that if not properly contextualised, people may see it as a licence to take laws into their hands and before we know it, mob actions will reign supreme and people will resort to lynching, shooting and other violent conducts all in the name of self-defence. This we must not allow and I bet that is not the intendment of General Danjuma’s outburst. Nigerians want good faith assurance from law enforcement agencies that they are still capable of protecting lives and property in this country.

Some critics are saying that Danjuma was part of the rot in the Military and therefore has no moral right to talk. What is your view on this?
I beg to differ. Every citizen of Nigeria has freedom of expression guaranteed by the constitution. General Danjuma has made his comments responsibly and within the bounds of law. He therefore deserves commendation and not condemnation. As an individual, General Danjuma is neither loquacious nor garrulous. Indeed he is considered as one of the most taciturn soldier of his generation. So for a man not given to irresponsible statements, people are bound to listen when he speaks. I am not aware of the rots in the Military or his connection to it in any form. As a Nigerian of distinction, he does posses the moral right to speak on burning issues of the moment.

The retired General was unequivocal in his outburst that the military is colluding with bandits by providing them with logistics. As a former General, do you think he has information not open to the public?
For a man not given to frivolous statements it is obvious that he has his facts. That is highly regrettable. Why some soldiers will betray public trust and violate their constitutional responsibilities is difficult to comprehend. What is reassuring however is that the art of collusion is by some bad eggs in the military and they can be fished out and flushed out. It is not an indictment of the commanding heights of the military. Neither is it indicative that there is a deliberate policy by the military high command to engage in such nefarious activities

The military has initiated a panel to investigate Danjuma’s allegation. Don’t you think an independent and neutral body would have been better?
I whole-heartedly endorse the approach of the Military High command. Mark you; it is not the military as an institution that is under scrutiny but rather some bad elements within the military. Consequently, it is only proper that investigation is done in accordance with the internal mechanism for exhaustion of remedies within the ambit of structural and administrative organogram. It is only where this fails that the issue can be externalised.

Will the country be better policed if state police is legalised?
I honestly believe that Nigeria is under-policed. Given our large population, it can only be said that we are grossly under-policed as there is room for more police personnel in the country. Also beside numerical consideration, there is every need for a highly modernised Police force with state of the art policing equipment; this is an option that cannot be glossed over. The summary is that as much as state police in my considered view is an idea whose time has come, one must presume that effective and efficient policing is best predicated on creation of state police.

The police have called on Vigilante groups to surrender their arms and no such orders were given to killer herdsmen. Could there be a link between the order and Danjuma’s self-defence call?
The law recognises and permits legal possession of firearms. However the licence can be withdrawn or the conditions overhauled. Against this backdrop, the police operated within the ambit of the law by requesting vigilante groups to surrender their arms. It cannot be expected that the “ubiquitous herdsmen” should be invited to surrender their arms when it is almost impossible to track their movement or determine their place of domicile. What is desirable is to track the herdsmen and dispossess them either peacefully or forcefully. It may well be that General Danjuma’s statement has pushed law enforcement authorities to rethink their strategy and press for reduction of arms and ammunitions in circulation. This is a plausible approach to reducing incidences of armed criminality.

The President has exercised his constitutional right to seek for re-election and this is generating a lot of comments. Do you think he deserves a second term looking at his performance so far?
Mr President has a right to re-election and it is his prerogative to invoke it or not. Whether it generates comments or not is normal as far as contestation of political power is concerned. Ultimately it is for the voters to decide by exercise of their franchise. My personal opinion is totally irrelevant at this point in time.

What is your view about the increasing exchanges of hate speeches across the land and governments effort to tackle it through legislation?
It is disturbing and worrisome indeed. Obviously regrettable that at this age and era we are still resorting to hate speeches as instrument for ventilating ethnic grievances. This takes us back to when people usually found refuge in primordial sentiments of tribalism and ethnicism. But more fundamental is that hate speeches incubate more where there is absence of sense of belonging in the affairs of the country or patent domination of one group over others. The issues above must be addressed, in addition to the promotion of inclusive governments and accommodation of shades of opinion in decision-making and policy formulation.

Legislation against hate speech is not a bad idea. But not all issues can be addressed by criminalization. One begins to wonder if legislation can serve as deterrence to potential hate speech makers or will the legislation be honoured more in the breach than observance? In this digital era, hate speeches abound on the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp etc. The challenge is how do you track, investigate and prosecute perpetrators of hate speech using the digital devises above mentioned? That is the crux of the matter.

Justice summit to honour Mahmoud, Bello, other jurists

Tue, 04/17/2018 - 06:06

NBA President Abubakar Mahmoud


The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Criminal Justice Reform Committee has unveiled plans to honour leading jurists and other stakeholders who have distinguished themselves in promoting criminal justice reform in Nigeria. 

Among those to receive the awards at the forthcoming NBA Criminal Justice Reform Conference in Asaba are all past chairmen of the NBA Criminal Justice Reform Committee, among whom is current NBA President, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN).

A statement at the weekend by Mr. Emeka Nwadioke, Head of Publicity Sub-committee, also listed the honorees to also include Honourable Justice Ishaq Bello, Chief Judge of FCT High Court and Chairman of the Administration of Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee; former NBA President, Mr. Joseph Daudu (SAN), and Dr. Garba Tetengi (SAN).

Others are renowned criminal justice reform advocates including Mr. Fola Arthur-Worrey, Professor Deji Adekunle (SAN), Prof. Yemi Akinseye-George (SAN), Mr. Chino Obiagwu, and frontline prison reform activist and Executive Director of Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA), Dr. Uju Agomoh.

Also to be bestowed with the awards are Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, MacArthur Foundation as well as the Yar’Adua Foundation for their support to criminal justice reform initiatives in the country.

Delta State is hosting the criminal justice reform conference for a second time. The state is also hosting the dinner for conferees. The dinner/awards will draw the curtains on the 5th Criminal Justice Reform Conference scheduled to hold at the Asaba Convention Centre between April 24 and 27, 2018.

The theme of the conference is “Criminal justice reforms in Nigeria: The journey so far.” Nigeria’s Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo SAN is expected to deliver the keynote address, while leading jurist and former Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS), Prof. Epiphany Azinge (SAN) will deliver the dinner speech.

Other dignitaries expected at the ICLE-certified conference are Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, House of Representatives Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) among other leading jurists.

FOI Act applies to states, says appeal court

Tue, 04/17/2018 - 05:50


Appeal Court, Akure Division, has held that the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act applies to states, when it comes to issues of accountability and public interest.

Former President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan had in 2011 signed the bill into law, empowering Nigerians to demand for public documents from governments and its parastatals.

In a 34-page judgment, delivered on March 27, 2018 in an appeal filed against Ondo state government, the presiding Justice of a 3-member panel, Justice Uzo Ndukwe-Anyanwu, said no state has the right to shun demands made under FOI Act.

A journalist and Project Coordinator of an NGO, Upline Resources, Mr. Martins Alo had requested for Ondo state government expenditures from 2012 to 2014 but was denied access.Alo sought redress at Ondo State High Court, having the Speaker, Ondo State House of Assembly and the state Auditor-General as respondents in the litigation.

But Justice Williams Akinrotoye, declined jurisdiction, ruled that the appellant had no locus standi to make such demands and stated that the FOI Act is limited to the Federal level.

The judge also awarded N10, 000 cost against the plaintiff for “wasting time and resources of the state.”Dissatisfied, the plaintiff through his counsel, Femi Emodamori approached the apex court on four counts, asking it to upturn the decision.Panel of appeal court justices, unanimously asserted that states too are answerable to the act as long as whatever demands made are in public interest, adding that they have a right to be informed on public funds generated through their taxes.

“In a democratic dispensation, such as Nigeria’s, the citizens have been proclaimed the owners of sovereignty and mandates that place leaders in the saddle."In any event, the cost awarded by the trial court was based on erroneous legal premise on issue of lack of jurisdiction to entertain the appellant’s claim and that the claim was ungrantable. In this circumstance, the order as to cost is set aside for being erroneously awarded in favour of the respondent.

"On the whole, having resolved the four issues in favour of the appellant and against respondents, this appeal succeeds and therefore allowed. The judgment of the lower court in Suit No: AK/5M/2016 delivered by Hon. Justice W.A. Akinrotoye on the 18th day of July 2016 is hereby set aside," judgment reads in part.

Only methodical approach can defeat corruption, says Ogunjebe

Tue, 04/17/2018 - 05:22

Dayo Ogunjebe


Prominent Lagos lawyer, Mr. Dayo Ogunjebe has faulted the approach of the current government in the fight against corruption, saying the war could only be won if the All Progressives Congress (APC) led government utilizes sincerity of purpose and methodical approach.

Ogunjebe’s is speaking at the backdrop of the recently released list of Nigerians who are believed to have looted the country during the last Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led government.

According to him, the Federal Government has not demonstrated enough sincerity in its self-impose war on corruption, saying the fight has been half hearted as only chieftains of the opposition party are being called to question while those in the ruling party are being left unquestioned.

He stated that no fewer than 20 former PDP governors with corruption cases are now in the ruling APC, adding that they have not been called up for serious questioning by the anti-graft agencies thus calling to question, the credibility of President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption drive.

The lawyer also added that no fewer than 22 out of the 24 governors elected on the platform of the APC were equally former members of the PDP.“We are indeed aware that corruption has been a cankerworm that has eaten deep into the nation’s fabric and that there is urgent need to fight it to a standstill.

“All Nigerians are unanimous in this believe and that formed the basis upon which Nigerians elected the Muhammadu Buhari-led government.“What has happened is that since the coming into being, the best the nation has been treated to, is media trial, all motion without movement, with government officials usually running into the media with names of suspected looters without the agencies responsible being able to establish prima facie case against the accused,” he said.

Ogunjebe urged the Federal Government to embark on institutional reforms of all various agencies saddle with the task of preventing the occurrence of the scourge as well as those relating to punishing errant members of the public who are found to be culpable in the act.

Tambuwal swears in four new judges

Tue, 04/17/2018 - 04:58

Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal.Photo TWITTER/SokotoGovtHouse


For about a decade now, there was no appointment of judges in Sokoto state. These are the words of Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal on Wednesday when he swore-in four new judges.

Tambuwal disclosed this at the swearing in ceremony held at the Government House. The governor said that the new judges will serve in the state High Court and the Sharia Court of Appeal.

Sworn in as High Court Judges were Kabiru Ibrahim Ahmad and Isah Mohammed Bargaja while Kasimu Yusuf and Umar Liman Sifawa were sworn-in as Khadis of the state Sharia Court of Appeal.

According to the governor, "their appointment followed due process and all those appointed were qualified legal representatives who merited their positions on the Bench."

He added that judicial officers in the state have shown great determination to ensure effective service delivery.Tambuwal said since the inception of present administration, he has not received any complaint against judicial officers directly or indirectly from the National Judicial Council (NJC) or the state Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

“For about a decade now, there was no appointment of judges in Sokoto state. So for us, today’s event is a milestone which will help in strengthening the judiciary.

“I want to assure you, and indeed the legislative arm of government, of our continued support and cooperation. This is essential if we hope to ensure rapid development of democracy in the country,” the Governor added.

While congratulating the new appointees, Tambuwal expressed confidence that they will approach their new responsibilities with dignity, integrity and commitment.
Present at the occasion are: the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Hon Salihu Maidaji, Chief Judge of the state, Justice Bello Abass and the Grand Khadi, Abdulkadir Saidu.

Okedara flays FG over looters’ list

Tue, 04/10/2018 - 06:30

President Buhari

A Global Research Fellow, International Center for Not for profit Law (ICNL) Washington DC, Solomon Okedara has criticized the Federal Government for releasing what he described as a political looters list.

The Lagos based legal practitioner in a statement lamented that the Federal Government ignored the decision of a Federal High Court, Lagos on July 2017 which ordered them to release to Nigerians information about the names of high ranking public officials from whom public funds were recovered and the circumstances under which such funds were recovered, as well as the exact amount of funds recovered from each public official.

According to him, the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), shortly after the judgment, declared that the Federal Government should publish the names of treasury looters intermittently after it must have met some conditions.

He noted that the wait for the names has been a mirage as nothing has happened for about nine months now until the list released by the Information Minister Lai Mohammed.

“Clearly, the lists released by the information minister appear to serve a political purpose only. Apparently, it came as a response to a remark by the leadership of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) that the Federal Government should go beyond mere rhetoric and media war in labeling the officials of past government as ‘looters’ but to specifically name the looters.

“If it took the Federal Government less than 24 hours to respond to PDP via a Press conference with a list of ‘looters’, one then wonders why has the same Federal government been unable to give effect to the judgment of a court of competent jurisdiction.

“Why does a name like Orji Kalu who is still standing trial for corruption charges is missing on the list? Is there a connection between his defection to APC and non-inclusion of his name on the list? How serious does the government take its institutions?

Legal, infrastructure experts seek right policies to grow real estate market in Nigeria

Tue, 04/10/2018 - 06:30

Real estate

In a bid to address challenges militating against the progress of the real estate sector in Nigeria, legal and real estate experts in Nigeria are seeking the right policies to help drive its growth.

Speaking at the 7th Detail Business Series in Lagos, organized by Detail Solicitors, Nigeria’s first commercial solicitor firm, specializing in non-court room practice, Andrew Nevin, Partner and Chief Economist, PwC revealed that the real estate is not growing, as it should because of land registry.

Navin said: “Land registry has delayed the progress of the real estate sector. It is delaying its investment, which is costly. In Lagos we need approximately five million dwellers and we are not getting them as expected as a result of the land registry.

According to him, the right economic policy will go a long way in improving the real estate sector.

Sonnie Ayere CEO Dunn Loren Merrifield stated that the real estate has a whole lot of disrupting factors restraining its progress especially in the area of raising enough fund to secure a house, shopping space and the likes.

He added that the mortgage terms and agreements are also bottlenecks to eliminate in the sector.

He therefore advised people who embark on mortgage skill to rather go for ‘loss of work insurance,’ which according to him is more suitable and affordable for those who want to secure and own a house.

Toyin Ajose, associate partner heading Detail’s real estate and construction practice said it was 7th detail series but the first time to focus on real estate, adding that the theme, ‘Navigating the evolving real estate market place –dealing with market disruptors’ is timely and apt.

Dolapo Omidire, founder and team lead, Estate Intel, who also spoke at the event, discussed the use of data to create an efficient property market.

Nwadioke asks Lagos Assembly to repeal LUC law

Tue, 04/10/2018 - 06:24

Lagos State House of Assembly

Civil rights lawyer, Mr. Emeka Nwadioke has advised the Lagos state House of Assembly to “urgently repeal” the controversial land use charge law 2018.

In a statement at the weekend, Nwadioke described the LUC law as “unconstitutional,” noting that the law is in breach of the 1999 constitution.

“The land use charge law 2018 as presently enacted is in clear breach of article 1 (j) of the fourth schedule to the 1999 constitution,” said nwadioke who is also a member of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) criminal justice reform committee.

“The schedule, pursuant to section 7 (5) of the constitution, unequivocally vests the assessment of privately owned houses or tenements for the purpose of levying rates on the Local government,” he said.

“While we have taken notice of the remark by the speaker of the Lagos State House of assembly that ‘the (LUC) law was all about increasing the revenue generation of the state,” Nwadioke said “it is unthinkable and highly worrisome that a duly constituted group of lawmakers sworn on the constitution would contemplate such brazen undermining of the same constitution merely in a quest to shore up internally generated revenue.”

According to him, all lovers of democracy and rule of law must rise in defence of the Nigerian constitution from this latest onslaught.

The cavalier manner in which the lawmakers have treated the Nigerian constitution, he said, is unacceptable.

“No amount of legislative gymnastics can alter the right exclusively vested by the constitution in the Local government to levy tenement rates.

“It is heart-warming that the Nigerian Supreme Court had in Knight Frank Rutley Nigeria v Attorney General of Kano state (1998) 4 sc 251 upheld this unambiguous provision of the constitution. The same is true of the Rivers State High Court in Grinaker Ita limited v board of internal revenue (suit phc/2842/2010).

Firm tackles immigration corruption

Tue, 04/10/2018 - 06:24

L-R: Managing Partner, Prince Joel and Associates Prince William-Joel, Igbokwe Blessing; Immigration Clinic Administrator, Michael Dimitri; Immigration Attorney and Head of Chambers, Prince Joel and Associates, Oluwasegun Adedokun, Social Media and Advertising Consultant and Mbadiwe Oliver, a lawyer.

The managing partner Of Prince Joel and Associates, an indigenous law firm, Prince William-Joel has said there is need to tackle corruption in the immigration parastatal and travelling agencies in Nigeria in order to eliminate all forms of mishaps relating to immigration .

According to him, most Nigerians are denied visa or restricted at the point of entry into foreign countries because they consulted roadside agents who have no valid knowledge of the immigration policies and requirements in foreign countries, hence they mislead prospective immigrants.

He said the need for professionals to address anomalies in order to resolve immigration challenges is why his law firm in partnership with immigration attorneys based in UK, US and others, unveils Immigration Clinic (IMC) for member of the public to assess their applications and attend to the several challenges and difficulties arising from visa applications.

“We entered a strategic collaboration with two seasoned attorneys and immigration experts based abroad, Nedum Ejiogu and Charles Ejiogu, vide a tripartite memorandum of understanding to sought inter alia, in order to address immigration-related issues in Nigeria.

“Immigration should be handled by law professionals who know the pros and cons of foreign policies, not illiterate roadside agents who assume the role of travelling agency to make ends meat hereby extorting immigrants.

"IMC was initiated to discourage the patronage of touts in immigration related services especially VISA applications.

“The clinic is our own way of giving back to the society at little or no cause practical information on Immigration Activities” he said.
The Immigration Clinic which is scheduled for every Thursday at his law firm, 5a Dozek Close, Chevron Drive in Lekki Lagos, will address all category of visa applicants and those who want to export products overseas.

Information revealed that on a weekly basis, about 500 to 1million visa applications are processed and less than 40% are successful whilst about 60% are refused, thus, capital flight lost through this non refundable visa application fees which approximately run into billions of Naira in a fiscal year, in addition to the money lost to visa racketeering and unreasonable fees paid to miscreant agents.

In his remark, Michael Damiari, Immigration Attorney and Head of Chambers, Prince Joel and Associates said: "IMC session is an antidote to immigration touting and corruption, as it would impact knowledge to people about simple immigration requirements.

“Records have proven that several unemployed intended emigrants’ uses some touts and miscreants under the guise that they are travel agents to apply for visa for them.

"This set of people have resorted to several forged documents including bank statements, employments letters, and other forged documents at their disposal.

“This amongst other reasons has added to the numbers of refused applications” he said.

Speaking, Idowu Lawal, Immigration Attorney, Prince Joel and Associates, there are over 90,000 visa applicants in Abuja and Lagos respectively, at US embassy, and majority of them are unemployed graduates who are desperate to leave the country and thus, fall into the hands of miscreants.

Lawyer sues FG, Police over citizen’s right to protest

Tue, 04/10/2018 - 06:16

Court

A Lagos based lawyer and rights-activist, Chief Malcolm Omirhobo, has filed a suit before a Federal High Court, Lagos challenging the violation of his fundamental rights and that of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) to protest.

Omirhobo filed the suit on behalf of himself, NBAIkeja branch and the general public, following the failed protest by the NBA Ikeja, against the reviewed land use charge by the state government.

Mentioned as respondents in the matter are the president of the Federal Republic, the attorney general of the Federation, Jnspector General of Folice and Lagos state commissioner of police.

Omirhobo said on March 12, 2018, the Lagos state government reviewed her land use charge by 200 percent in the face of economic hardship and biting effects of the recession of the Nigerian economy.

He said: "the review led a large section of the nigerian populace particularly lagosians, the organized private sector, residents, landlords, opposition political parties, business and professional associations to oppose it. at the vanguard of the opposition to the new rate is the nba ikeja branch and civil society groups.

"The NBA Ikeja branch scheduled to stage a peaceful protest against the Lagos state government’s reviewed land use charge on march 29, 2018, but unfortunately and regrettably on march 28, 2018, over 50 heavily armed servants, agents and/or privies of the 3rd and 4th respondents laid siege at the Nigerian Bar Association ikeja branch secretariat situate within the Lagos state High Court Ikeja premises in a bid to arrest officials of the body so as to frustrate and stop the protest".

The applicant also said the 4th respondent issued a press statement to the public categorically warning the public that the police will not tolerate any group or persons to protest in Lagos state and environs because the president would be on a two days official visit to the state, alleging that the NBA Ikeja is being used by some disgruntled politicians.

He therefore urged the court to declare as undemocratic, illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional for the 3rd and 4th respondents their servants, agents and/or privies to frustrate and/or prevent members of the nba and by extension the generality of the nigerian public from carrying on their planned peaceful protest.

He maintained that the act of 3rd and 4th respondents, their servants, agents and/or privies is a flagrant violation and a breach of the fundamental rights.

Omirhobo also prayed the court for a declaration that in the face of the combined provisions of section 39, 40 and 41 of the 1999 constitution of nigeria (as amended), intending protesters needs only to notify the police and not to obtain the permission and/or approval of the 3rd and 4th respondents to embark on protest or demonstration.

‘Establishment of Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit is unnecessary’

Tue, 04/10/2018 - 06:12

EFCC

The Senate recently passed the bill setting up the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) as an independent body. It had been passed by the House of Representatives. The bill if assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari, will make the NFIU independent of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). In this interview with YETUNDE AYOBAMI OJO, the national welfare secretary of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Adegbite Adesina, said creating another agency is totally unnecessary. He also spoke on other topical national issues.

Reacting to the passage of the bill by the National Assembly, he said: “First, let me start by saying that the Nigeria Police is a creation of the National Assembly Act and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

EFCC is also a very important security agency created by the Act. Both security agencies perform functions that are sometimes overlapping.

We also have ICPC, which mainly focus on corrupt practices among public officers, political office holders and public institutions and agencies generally.

Creating a further agency in my view is absolutely unnecessary. It is a waste of time and consequently will lead to humongous wasteful spending.

Nigeria has more than enough security agencies and apparatus to deal with any security issue be it breakdown of law and order or financial crimes. It is an anomaly that we are still thinking of creating another agency when all we need to do is to strengthen the existing institutions.

“We need to reform the Nigeria Police, the EFCC, the ICPC and other security agencies and allow the office of the Attorney General to play the role of an ombudsman that supervises the activities of these security institutions.

We must therefore ensure only persons who have the conviction to be disciplined, dutiful, professional and conscientious get appointed as the Attorney General.

Why should we commit resources that could have been better used for projects that will positively impact on the lives of Nigerians on the establishment of an intelligence Unit that may end up becoming more corrupt than the existing agencies?

The idea in my view should be jettisoned while the security agencies in the country especially the Police, EFCC and ICPC should be reformed and re-engineered to position them for better performances.”

On the conflict arising as a result of the attempt by the National Assembly to reorder the 2019 election timetable, the lawyer said the dispute was occasioned by mutual suspicion, which exists between the parliament and the presidency.

His words: “On the effort by National Assembly to reorder the election time-table, it would ordinarily not have been an issue had it not been for the mutual suspicion between the National Assembly and the Presidency.

Personally, l do not see any big deal in making the presidential election come last in the order of polls. Nigeria is not the only country where elections will be staggered. It is a global standard practice.

My only concern about this, is the financial implication of such staggering. However, the opposition we have witnessed so far especially from the presidency and political apologists has been that the reordering was targeted at President Buhari.

I do not intend to join such bandwagon, but my view as someone that is apolitical is that such reordering has the tendency to bring about decency, but it also comes with attendant financial burden.”

Land use charge law revised by Lagos state government has attracted criticism from various quarters in the state including protests by the Ikeja branch of the NBA. What does Adesina think of the issue?

“The newly introduced Land Use Charge regime is an anti-people, it is mindlessly exorbitant, it is ill-timed, it is unfair and must be jettisoned at this time. The Land Use Charge of Law of Lagos State may become extinct as a result of the obnoxious increments.

People are now vexed and justifiably moved to challenge the constitutionality and legality of the law itself.

When people kept quiet before now, it wasn’t that they don’t know their rights, it was simply because they felt the sense of ownership and responsibility towards the government in Lagos State; however, the killing rates being levied on the people has now turned the same people that were doing voluntary compliance to stand against the policy and the law.

My advise to Governor Ambode on this Land Use Charge matter is to thread softly and listen to the voice of the people.

While I understand the need for the State to generate fund, Mr. Governor should remember that vox populi vox dei (voice of the people is the voice of God).

All things are possible if there are proper engagements and amicable resolutions. The use of force or uncompromising stand can only bring anarchy and revolution,” he said.

Speaking on the restructuring campaign and judicial independent, he said restructuring is an unavoidable necessity for the survival of the geographical expression called Nigeria.

His words: “If Nigeria must continue to exist as a united entity then restructuring must be at the front burner of any intellectual arrangement towards salvaging the country from the ruins she seems to be navigating towards.

What we have at play right now as many knowledgeable Nigerians have alluded to severally at different fora and platforms is at best described as a lopsided federalism.

That nearly every sector of economy and governance that are pivotal to the growth of the country and infrastructural development are placed under the exclusive list in the Constitution is a self imposed bottleneck and development hindrance.

This anomalous federalism is also responsible for a lot of needless ethnic, communal and religious clashes that has become a norm in the country.

It must however be noted that restructuring was one of the catchy manifestos of APC which contributed greatly to the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari as the President in 2015.

Personally I see restructuring as a moral burden, which the APC government must ensure becomes a reality. It is indeed more of a covenant that must be fulfilled.

“However, the body language of the Presidency does not suggest that the covenant will be fulfilled before the next election. If fulfilled, then those of us who went on the streets and social media despite not being card-carrying members of APC to campaign for President Buhari will surely heave a sigh of relief.

It is my prayer that the restructuring campaign is not made a political campaign tool for second term, but rather treated as an agenda that must be prosecuted to a logical conclusion by the Federal Government.

“On Judicial independence, it is a precondition for the existence of a just society.

An independent judiciary is a panacea for a peaceful society, adherence to rule of law, a fair and just society, economic development and much more. We certainly cannot over state the benefits of an independent judiciary to any nation.”

Lagos land use charge law 2018, a constitutional aberration

Tue, 04/10/2018 - 06:00

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode

Before I begin this legal excursion, I crave the indulgence of my noble readers, to permit me, as a forerunner, to cast a bird’s eye view on the general principles upon which the doctrine of federalism rests.

Nigeria is a Federation of States and Federal Capital Territory (See Section 2 (2) of the Constitution) where a democratic system of Local Government Council is constitutionally guaranteed (see Section 7 (1) of the Constitution).

The Government of every State including Lagos State is mandated to ensure that the existence of the Local Government is preserved under a Law enacted by the House of Assembly of the State.

The said law is expected to provide for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of the Local Government council (see Section 7 (1) of the Constitution).

The letter and spirit of the Lagos state Land Use Charge Law 2018 that was passed by the Lagos State House of Assembly on 19th January 2018 and assented to by the State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode on February 8, 2018 run afoul of the above letter and intent of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended.

It is against this backdrop I shall formulate the following issues for determination: 1. Whether Sections 3, 5, 6, 7, 11, 14, 27 and 28 of the Land Use Charge Law 2018 are inconsistent with the provisions of Section 7(1) and (5), and Section 1(b) and (j) of the Fourth Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended and whether same are unconstitutional, null and void having regard to the provision of Section 1(3) of the Constitution.

Whether by the combined effect of the provisions of Section 4(2), (3), and (5) of the Constitution, the Lagos State Land Use Charge Law 2018 is inconsistent with the Capital Gain Tax Act and Land Use Act that were validly made by the National Assembly before the enactment of the Lagos State Land Use Charge 2018 and the Land Use Charge Law 2018 is according null and void.

Sections 3, 5, 6, 7, 11, 14, 27 and 28 of the Land Use Charge Law 2018 are inconsistent with the provisions of Section 7(1) and (5)

While Section 2 (2) of the law merely mentions that each Local Government Area in the state shall be the collecting authority and the only body empowered to levy and collect tenement rates for its area of jurisdiction.

Section 3 of the law suggests delegation of power of the local government area by a written agreement with respect to the assessment of privately owned houses or tenement for the purposes of levying and collecting rate.

Sections 5, 6, 7, 11, 14, 27 and 28 explain the intention of the delegation of power, which was suggested earlier under Section 3.

The provisions of Sections 5, 7, 11, 14, 27 and 28 do not pretend to recognize the Local Government Area (even though pretension was made under Section 2 (2)) as a collecting authority for tenement rates as all the necessary elements in exercising the functions of the Local Government has been surreptitiously taken away by the Commissioner of Finance.

Under Section 5 of the law, the power to identify or assess property for the purpose of levying tenement rates is solely on the Commissioner. The power to appoint consultants is conferred on the Commissioner under Section 6.

Although Section 7 appears to be silent on who oversees the Lagos State Valuation Office, it is safe to conclude that the Commissioner would preserve the existence of the Lagos State Valuation Office.

The payment shall be made into designated banks controlled and managed by the Commissioner (see Sections 11, 14 and 27 of the Law). The Attorney General of the State upon the recommendations of the Commissioner shall be solely responsible in making recovery of the Land Use Charge.

It is crystal clear that the provision of Section 2 (2) of the law has now been by-passed or completely disregarded by the subsequent provisions of Sections 5, 6, 7, 11, 14, 27, and 28 of the law which now recognizes the Commissioner of Finance as the sole collecting authority of the tenement rate which is a direct attack and assault on the functions and powers of the Local Government under the provision of Section 7 (5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended.

This result may have flowed from the application of the rule for the interpretation of statutes, which was noted by Maxwell on the Interpretation of Statutes, 12th ed. P. 187 as follows: “If two sections of the same statute are repugnant, the known rule is that the last must prevail”

Section 7 (5) of the Constitution provides as follows: “(5) The functions to be conferred by Law upon local government council shall include those set out in the Fourth Schedule to this Constitution.”

Paragraph 1(b) and (j) of the Fourth Schedule to the Constitution provides as follows: “1. The main functions of a local government council are as follows: (b) collection of rates… (j) assessment of privately owned houses or tenements for the purpose of levying such rates as may be prescribed by the House of Assembly of a State; and…”

The provisions of the Lagos State Land Use Charge Law are unconstitutional, null and void having regard to the provision of Section 1(3) of the Constitution.

The above provision of the Constitution only recognizes part of the functions of the Local Government Council as collection of rates including tenement rates and the House of Assembly of State is expected by law to prescribe the mode of assessing or levying the tenement rates without removing from or adding to the functions of the Local Government Council.

The extent of the power of the House of Assembly in enacting a law for the Local Government Council is clearly defined under Section 7 (1) of the Constitution i.e. a law by the House of Assembly for the purpose of preserving the existence, structure, finance, composition, establishment of the Local Government Council.

The Lagos State Land Use Charge Law has clearly snuffed out the life of the Local Government Councils in Lagos State and the said provisions are, therefore, null and void by virtue of the provision of Section 1 (3) of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court, per Niki Tobi (as he then was) in NIGERCARE DEVELOPMENT COMPANY LTD. V. ADAMAWA STATE WATER BOARD & ORS.(2008) LPELR-1997(SC) defined the word inconsistent as used under Section 1(3) of the Constitution to mean ‘ideas or opinions which are not in agreement with each other or with something else.

It also means mutually repugnant or contradictory, contrary, the one to the other, so that both cannot stand, but the acceptance or establishment of the one implies the abrogation or abandonment of the other as, in speaking the repeal of statute, which is inconsistent with the Constitution. See Black’s Law Dictionary Sixth edition, page 766.

In the context of Section 1 (3) of the Constitution, it simply means the statute speaking quite a different language from the Constitution.’

The Supreme Court in Knight Frank & Rutley (Nig.) v. A.-G., Kano State (1998) 7 NWLR (Pt.556) 1 interpreted the provision of Section 7 (5) and paragraph 1(b) and (j) of the Fourth Schedule to the Constitution and had this to say: “It is clear from the provisions of paragraph 1(b) and (j) of the Fourth Schedule read together with the provisions of Section 7 subsection (5) of the Constitution that the intendment of the Constitution is that only Local Government Councils have the power to assess and impose rates on privately owned property.”

The Supreme Court stated further that: “The House of Assembly of a State may by law prescribe the type of rates to be levied on such privately owned houses or tenements.

The assessment and collection of such rates are exclusively the function of the local government council as guaranteed by the Constitution and not by the State Legislature. Paragraph 1m of the Fourth Schedule to the Constitution is clear and unambiguous.

The State Legislature or the Military Administrator during the present dispensation has no business in the assessment and collection of rates in respect of the premises stated in the said schedule.

It will amount to a usurpation of the power of the Local Government Council for the State Government to carry out such exercise or engage any person or authority to do so on its behalf.”

In Knight Frank & Rutley (Nig) v. A.G. Kano State (supra), the Kano State Commissioner of Finance entered into an agreement with the Appellant to prepare valuation list of all rateable hereditaments for the collection of property rates in the area of Kano State.

The Supreme Court held that the agreement was illegal and void as the exercise of power by the Commissioner of Finance contravened the functions and powers of the Local Government Council under the provision of Section 7(5) and paragraph 1(b) and (j) of the Fourth Schedule to the Constitution.

By virtue of Section 4(2), (3), (5) of the Constitution, the Lagos State Land Use Charge Law 2018 is inconsistent with the Capital Gain Tax Act and Land Use Act that were validly made by the National Assembly before the enactment of the Lagos State Land Use Charge 2018 and the Land Use Charge Law 2018 is accordingly null and void.

It is my humble submission that having regard to the provisions of Section 4(2), (3), (5) and 7 of the Constitution, the Lagos State Land Use Charge Law 2018 is inconsistent with the Capital Gain Tax Act and the Land Use Act which were previously enacted by the National Assembly before the enactment of the Land Use Charge Law 2018 and same is accordingly unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect.

Section 4 (2) of the Constitution clearly empowers the National Assembly to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Federation or any part of the Federation in respect of any matter included in the Exclusive Legislative List set out in Part 1 of the Second Schedule to the Constitution.

One of the matters listed under the Part 1 of the Second Schedule to the Constitution is ‘taxation of incomes, profits and capital gains’.

Also, Section 4 (3) of the Constitution is instructive on the point that the power of the National Assembly to make laws on Exclusive Legislative List including matter of taxation of incomes, profits and capital gains shall be strictly to the exclusion of the Houses of Assembly of States including Lagos State House of Assembly.

In the same vein, it is crystal clear from the provision of Section 4(5) of the Constitution that where there is any law made by the Houses of Assembly of States including Lagos State House of Assembly is inconsistent with any law validly made by the National Assembly, the law made by the National Assembly shall prevail and the other law shall be void to the extent of its inconsistency.
Lagos State Land Use Law 2018 inconsistent with the Capital Gain Tax Act.

Community consideration and holistic appraisal of the Lagos State Land Use Charge Law 2018 will reveal that the purpose of the law is to raise tax on the increase in the money value of land and buildings in Lagos State.

This above reasoning is not farfetched considering the fact that in computing the amount of tax payable under the Land Use Charge Law of Lagos State 2018, the formula used is the current market value of the land and buildings concerned.

Hence, the law enacted by the Lagos State Government involves an element of tax on capital gain.

This would not have been so if the basis for computation had been the cost of the land and buildings at the time of acquisition by the owner.

Tax on capital gain has been clearly provided for under the Capital Gain Tax Act Cap C1 Laws of the Federation 2004 and it does not require an additional law by the Houses of Assembly of States in this instant Lagos State House of Assembly.

It is for the above reasons I safely conclude that the Lagos State Land Use Law 2018 is inconsistent with the Capital Gain Tax Act, which is a law validly made by the National Assembly and it is therefore void.

Lagos State Land Use Law 2018 inconsistent with the Land Use Act

Aside the argument so far advanced on the unconstitutionality of the Land Use Charge Law, the said law is also unconstitutional and invalid as a result of certain provisions of the Land Use Act Cap L5 Laws of the Federation 2004.

Section 14 of the Land Use Act provides inter alia as follows: “… the occupier shall have exclusive rights to the land the subject of the statutory right of occupancy against persons other than the Governor.”

Also, Section 51 of the Land Use Act defines an ‘occupier’ as follows: “… any person lawfully occupying land under customary law and a person using or occupying land in accordance with customary law and includes the sub-lessee or sub-lessee of a holder.”

From the above provision, it is inconsistent with the occupier’s exclusive rights to land in Lagos State to impose a charge or encumbrance on the said land to secure the payment of a tax imposed by that state law.

It is equally inconsistent with the occupiers’ rights to make the land over which they have exclusive rights liable to enforcement pursuant to Section 31(2) of the Land Use Charge.

Furthermore, by virtue of Section 315 (5) (d) Constitution, the Land Use Act shall not be altered or modified except in accordance with the provision of Section 9 (2) of the Constitution which provides for mode of altering the provisions of the Constitution i.e. the Land Use Act to be validly altered must comply with laid procedure for alteration or amendment of the Constitution.

The imposition by the Lagos State Government of a charge or encumbrance on the exclusive rights of the occupiers in Lagos State is a direct attempt at altering or amending the Land Use Act without complying with the provision of Section 9 (2) of the Constitution and the Land Use Charge Law 2018 is therefore unconstitutional, null and void.

CONCLUSION

The Lagos State Government clearly committed a foux pas in enacting a sensitive legislation as Land Use Charge Law which affects practically all residents of the state without proper and constructive engagement of the civil societies, major stakeholders and enlightenment on the law before passing it into law if it had done that errors committed could have been avoided.

The panel-beating of the law by the Lagos State Government in engaging stakeholders for possible amendment of the law appears to be ‘medicine after death’.

In the same vein, the entire gamut of the provisions of the law will still remain null and void (as ‘you cannot put something on nothing’. See Macfoy V. UAC (1962) AC 158 per Lord Denning) irrespective of any watertight amendment or alteration that may be attempted on the law, having regard to the above arguments.

• Ojo is a lawyer in Chief Rotimi Williams Chambers.

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